Barbara Bergmann, a pioneering feminist economist, died last Sunday, April... daughter of East European immigrants, Professor Bergmann was born in...

Barbara Bergmann, a pioneering feminist economist, died last Sunday, April 5th. A
daughter of East European immigrants, Professor Bergmann was born in the Bronx in
1927 and remained a New Yorker at heart. While attending Cornell on a scholarship, she
developed a strong interest in and a passionate concern for racial and sex discrimination,
which continued throughout her life. Graduating with a BA in mathematics in 1948, she
found it difficult to get an interesting job because of workplace discrimination. She took a
position in the public inquiries division of the New York office of the Bureau of Labor
Statistics, becoming head of the unit after a year. Professor Bergmann continued her
education at Harvard and received a PhD in economics in 1959, while supporting herself
by working as a teaching assistant in statistics.
Professor Bergmann was always an active member of the economics profession. She
served as Senior Staff Economist in the Council of Economic Advisors during the
Kennedy Administration, Senior Economic Adviser for the Agency for International
Development, and as an advisor to the Congressional Budget Office and the Bureau of
the Census. Since the 1960’s, she was a faculty member at the University of Maryland
and at American University, with a two-year stint at Brandeis University. She served as
President of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the Society for
the Advancement of Socio-Economics (ASE), and the International Association for
Feminist Economics (IAFFE), of which she was a founding member. She was also a
member of the Board of Directors of the Economists Allied for Arms Reduction.
Professor Bergmann was a recipient of the Carolyn Shaw Bell Award of the American
Economic Association (AEA) for improving the status of women in economics and
creating an understanding of how women can advance in the academy. Upon retirement,
she was named professor emerita of economics at American University and the
University of Maryland.
Professor Bergmann did seminal work on the economics of race and gender, social policy
on employment discrimination, childcare, and poverty, and the computer simulation of
economic systems. She was always a sharp critic of the state of economic science,
particularly in its persistent use of a flawed methodology for advancing the discipline.
She once wrote that "economics fails to advance because we economists have cut
ourselves off from doing any real observing." Over the last few decades, she was actively
engaged in public policy debates ranging from social security to affirmative action,
childcare, and welfare policies. Her books on social issues, which include: The Economic
Emergence of Women, In Defense of Affirmative Action, Saving Our Children From
Poverty: What the United States Can Learn From France, Is Social Security Broke?: a
Cartoon Guide to the Issues, and America’s Child Care Problem: The Way Out,
demonstrates her strong belief that the economics discipline should be in service of
promoting social change towards a humane society and be accessible to broad audiences.
Her enduring focus on the plight and needs of single mothers and children and of African
Americans shows her ability to understand beyond her own social circumstances. An
ardent feminist, she inspired generations of economists, statisticians, sociologists, and
others through her significant contribution to feminist scholarship and her promotion of
feminist economics in the economics discipline and curriculum.
She was married for 46 years to Fred H. Bergmann, who died in 2011 and was a
biochemist who served as head of the genetics grants program at the National Institutes of
Health (NIH). She is survived by a daughter, Sarah Bergmann, of Washington DC, a son
David Bergmann of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, and three grandchildren.
A memorial service celebrating the life of Barbara R. Bergmann will be on April 28,
2015 at 3:00 p.m. on the second floor of the Katzen Arts Center at American University,
Washington DC.